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Joe F 04-04-2009 07:05 AM

Water heater going bad?
Over the past few weeks several aerators and shower heads have been clogging with lime scale chunks. Last night when my daughter took a bath, the tub was pretty much full of the stuff. I'm pretty sure the stuff is coming from the water heater. Is it time for a new heater or is it worth draining it? FYI, it's at least 10 years old.

Thurman 04-04-2009 07:16 AM

IMO, from experience, if your heater is electric, if your water heater is heating the water fine and you have just started experiencing this material, I would look into draining/flushing the water heater. I wouldn't be surprised if your bottom element is hard to remove. It is probably coated with lime. Without going through all the details again, do a search for something like "water heater cleaning" or "water heater flushing". I have a tool I made that attaches to my wet/dry vac I use to really get most of that stuff out of a WH after taking out the bottom element. For some weird reason, around here I've never had a call about a gas water heater with this problem, we have plenty of lime in local well water and the City ain't doing so good either.

TazinCR 04-04-2009 07:17 AM

I would replace it at that age.

majakdragon 04-04-2009 08:34 AM

10 years is when you should start thinking about replacing (if it lasted that long). The lime and scale may not be caused by the heater either. If you are on a well, the aquafer may be having more deposits at the depth you are pulling water from. You should drain and flush water heaters at least once per year. This is especially true with gas units since the flame has to heat deposits before it can heat the water. This "boiling" of the deposits causes popping sounds when the flame kicks on. For electric, you are wasting energy if the heating elements are covered with scale and such.

brokenknee 04-04-2009 08:41 AM

Are you sure it is just the hot water? Have you tried filling up the tub with only cold water to see if you get any of the scale chunks?

If it is the water heater you could try flushing it to see if it helps (it doesn't cost anything).

Once you have the problem fixed I would also consider a whole house water filter and maybe a water softener to help prevent this in the future. I would also flush my water tank once a year to prevent buildup.

Joe F 04-04-2009 11:42 AM

I just confirmed that it's coming from the hot side. I'll flush the tank today and probably replace the heater in a week or two when I can set aside a day to do it.

FYI, it's natural gas on city water.

plumber Jim 04-04-2009 02:15 PM

It sounds like the dip tube is falling apart and plugging your faucets. The dip tube is a plastic tube on the cold inlet side of the water heater. you need to remove the nipple on the cold side and stick your finger in and pull it out and if its missing or less that say 28" then you need a new one.

Joe F 04-04-2009 03:40 PM

The stuff looks like scale, but it could be remains of the dip tube. Either way I'm going to replace the water heater. The date decoded to 1994 (5 years before we bought the house), it's time to go.

kenmac 04-04-2009 07:22 PM

If you had dip tube problems .. You would know it.. very little hot water.. Hot water for a short time then cold to warm.. Do a good flush.. It should do it

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